- Category: Opinions/Interviews
- Published on Tuesday, 17 August 2010 06:38
- Written by Next
- Hits: 1618
On Sunday August 15 around 11.25am at a time when all decent men and women are travelling to or from what might have been a relaxing weekend activity, death was lurking in wait for some 20 people on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, courtesy of an illegal roadblock mounted by men of the Nigeria Police.
Eyewitness accounts say the accident, was precipitated by a trailer, which reportedly lost control after a break failure.
It crashed into a line of other vehicles that had been stuck in the traffic snarl created by the illegal police checkpoint.
This is nothing new. In fact, it is a common occurrence for policemen to create roadblocks, ostensibly to check vehicles but most often using their uniforms and weapons to extort money from drivers and other road users. Transporters and private drivers prepare for it, the practice has developed a sub culture of its own. “Good evening oga/madam, wetin you get for us?” It is tragic that this custom has led to this magnitude of deaths in one instance, but it was a disaster always waiting to happen. The presence of policemen on our roads should be one to aid movement and safety not to threaten safety and create gridlock and endanger safe motoring on an expressway.
This kind of self-induced carnage on our roads should not be allowed to continue. Nigerian roads are becoming slaughter slabs for citizens who have to move around on a daily basis. The stretch of road on which this Sunday carnage occurred, the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, has gained notoriety as the country’s leading passage to agony and untimely death.
If it is not commuters risking life by having to make abrupt stops, it is the complete takeover of the road by religious groups who when they hold their programmes ensure that it is closed down completely or partially paralysed while law enforcement agencies look on helplessly. It is high time the authorities woke up to the realisation that this kind of carelessness and disregard of driving codes that leads to killing of innocent citizens cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.
It is only in Nigeria that the Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State would keep their jobs when men under their watch have been accused of being the cause of the loss of over 20 lives in an accident. In a society which values lives and integrity the two men by now would have either resigned or instigated serious investigations into the veracity of the claims that their men caused this avoidable tragedy.
Following a deadly train crash in Gaisal, India in 1999, the minister for railways immediately offered his resignation to the Prime Minister. In October 2009, Egypt’s transport minister resigned in the aftermath of an accident involving two passenger trains. If it were in Nigeria these officials would have argued that since they were not the drivers of the trains they were under no obligation to resign. But those are countries that value life and care about reputation and accountability a lot more than us.
Today, the Inspector General and the police commissioner have not even found it necessary to tender a public apology for this carnage. This is clearly unacceptable.
Beyond the illegality of the checkpoint that led to the disaster, the accident has also raised the need to fix our roads. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is the main artery in and out of the nation’s economic capital. The condition of the road, to say the least, is a straight street to death! It is surprising the federal authorities ceded the maintenance of such an important road in a concession to a private company, Bi-Courtney that has done little to improve its state. Since Bi-Courtney took over maintenance of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in 2009 no visible change has been noted; rather its condition has continued to deteriorate. We believe strongly that this accident is a clarion call on the Federal and Lagos State governments to come to an agreement on how to stop the ritual of avoidable deaths on this all-important artery.
Finally, those responsible for this heinous murder must be brought to book. Enough is enough.